By: Molly Bourg
Planning on paying South Louisiana a little visit? Maybe it’s for Mardi Gras, maybe it’s for a little recreational hunting and fishing, maybe… it’s just because. Regardless of the reason, we are known for our rich and delectable cuisine and you my friend want to partake in some’a that. Louisiana cuisine can be intimidating. What’s the difference between andouille and boudin? What the heck’s a muffaletta? The lady just asked if I want my sandwich dressed, why is it naked in the first place?
Fear not, for here is a cheat sheet of a few standard delicacies of the deep South.
Seasoned and smoked pork sausage. As seen in jambalaya, chicken and sausage gumbo, or pan fried on French bread.
Invented in New Orleans at Brennan’s restaurant, this is a decadent treat to say the least. Bananas, brown sugar, rum, butter, and cinnamon, flambéed and served atop vanilla ice cream.
Beignets (ben-yay, think of it as a celebration for your mouth)
Square little doughnuts that are light and airy on the inside and smothered with powdered sugar on the outside. Do not breathe too heavily whilst eating, or you’ll wind up with sugar up your nose and down your clothes. Served in threes at Café Du Monde with a nice cup of café au lait.
Boudin (boo-dan, or boo-DAMN! If its really good. But really, don’t do that you’ll sound silly.)
Pork, rice, and seasonings stuffed into a sausage casing. They can be slow grilled, sautéed, or formed into balls and deep fried. I like mine on crackers with a little mustard.
A scintillating way to revive old bread. Dry bread is folded into a sweet custard base and baked to ooey-gooey perfection. Although there are countless variations, the traditional version is flavored with raisins and cinnamon and served with hot rum sauce. Crushed pineapple is sometimes added, but that’s a point of contention between cooks.
Café au lait
While warm coffee and milk is by no means new, New Orleanians have a twist by adding chicory to their coffee, which adds a distinct earthy bitterness. A must have when eating beignets.
Shrimp and the “Holy Trinity” cooked down in a thick and spicy tomato gravy and served on rice.
A term when ordering po’boys or other sandwiches. To say “I want it dressed,” means you want lettuce, tomato and mayo on it. Some places also include pickles and onions, so be sure to check.
Chicken livers and giblets ground and cooked down with the “Holy Trinity” and rice. Also known as rice dressing, served as a side. Don’t knock it till you try it.
This is one of the most well known Louisiana dishes. A thick stew of meat and okra served on rice. The two most common varieties are chicken and sausage or seafood, but anything from duck to venison to mushrooms can be added. Often served with gumbo file (fee-lay, ground sassafras leaves) and hot sauce.
An allusion to the Christian Trinity, this is the Cajun/Creole version of the French mirepoix. It simply refers to chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper which are used as seasonings in the majority of dishes. My father likes to add garlic, calling it the “Blessed Mother.”
Second only to gumbo in fame, jambalaya comes in two varieties: Cajun and Creole. Both include rice, the “Holy Trinity”, and a variety of meats ranging from Andouille to shrimp to chicken, depending on the cook. The main difference is that Cajun, or “dry” jambalaya is much simpler, and is cooked with only broth and seasonings. Meanwhile Creole, sometimes called “Spanish” or “wet” jambalaya includes tomatoes cooked down as well. Both are delicious, but I’m partial to Creole jambalaya.
This not cake in the conventional sense. Rather it’s a semi-sweet brioche style dough, braided in a ring with cinnamon, and topped with confectioners icing and colored sugar. Most bakeries also offer it stuffed with cream cheese, custard or jam. Available from January 6th (King’s Day) till Mardi Gras day. Be careful not to get the baby, or you’ll have to buy the cake for the next party!
This popular sandwich was created by Italian workmen in the French quarter. It features salami, ham, provolone, and mozzarella melted and slapped on toasted sesame bread with a heaping helping of olive salad on top. You may want to start with a half; a single muffaletta roll is easily larger than a human head.
Po’ Boy (Or Poor Boy, depending on whether or not you’re from St. Bernard Parish)
Our version of the sub sandwich. Fillings include fried seafood, roast beef and gravy, sausage, or if you’re lucky, debris gravy and French fries. Dress it up with lettuce, tomato and mayo, or keep it simple with hot sauce, butter and pickles.
Pecan Praline (pe-cahn prah-line)
I know the spelling makes it tempting to say “pray-line” but you must resist. Only nuns and little old ladies can get away with saying “pray-line” because they’re cute. These creamy, cookie-shaped treats are comprised of sugar, cream, butter, and pecans.
Red Beans and Rice
Delicious as it is nutritious, red beans and rice is exactly what it sound like. It is traditionally served on Mondays because in the past the ham bone and drippings from a Sunday dinner could be added to the pot. Andouille, tasso ham, and smoked pork hocks can also be added for an extra kick.
I want you to envision a snow cone. Now I want you to envision a snow cone prepared by the gods themselves. That is a sno-ball. The ice is shaved instead of crushed to yield a soft, melt in your mouth texture and ensure maximum syrup absorption. The flavors are countless: red velvet cake, blackberry, orchid vanilla, spearmint, and more. If you so desire, you can have it stuffed with soft serve ice cream or topped with sweetened condensed milk.